The liturgical year of the Catholic Church is marked by recurrences that celebrate the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the commemoration of Blessed and Saints.
Lent is the liturgical period that precedes Easter and is characterized by the invitation to conversion to God and penance. It begins on the Wednesday of The Ashes, when the blessed palm trees and olive branches, collected on the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year, are burned. The period ends after 40 days, on the Holy Thursday.
During Lent, all Catholics are invited to live their faith in a stronger and more determined way through penitential liturgies, pilgrimages, works of mercy, voluntary deprivation such as fasting and almsgiving.
On all Fridays of Lent and especially on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, so called The Good Friday, Christians commemorate the Passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ through the spiritual ritual of the Via Crucis, in which they recall Jesus’s way to the Golgotha, the mountain where the crucifixion took place. The spiritual path is subdivided into stages or stations, representing the salient facts happened during the itinerary that are reported in the Gospels.
Originally the real Via Crucis (literally in Latin “Way of the Cross”) provided devotees for going to the actual places where Jesus had suffered and had been put to death.
Since such a pilgrimage was not possible for everyone, Jerusalem was ideally “brought” to the worshippers through the representation of the various stations of the Via Crucis in the churches. Through them, worshippers could recall Jesus’s way to the Cross, meditate and pray. This popular practice was mainly spread by the Franciscan Minor Friars returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. From 1342, in fact, the Order of Minor Friars has the custody of the Holy Places in the Holy Land. The correct fulfillment of the devotional practice allowed the devotee to acquire the same indulgences that would have been granted to him if he had visited all the Holy Places of Jerusalem. In addition, they established that the location of the stations should respond to standards of symmetry and equidistance within the churches. The order of the depictions along the walls could be exposed either clockwise or anticlockwise.
Today all the Catholic churches have a “Way of Sorrows”, called Via Crucis, composed of fourteen stations. Sometimes a fifteenth station, representing the Resurrection of Jesus, is also added.
The stations of the traditional Via Crucis do not present all the significant moments of the Passion of Jesus according to the Gospels, therefore a different scheme has been developed that follows the Gospel.
In 1991 the Via Crucis celebrated by Pope John Paul II at the Colosseum took place for the first time according to the following Gospel scheme:
- Jesus’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14: 32-36)
- Jesus, betrayed by Judas, is arrested (Mark 14, 13. 45-46)
- Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14.55.60-64)
- Jesus is denied by Peter (Mark 14, 72)
- Jesus is judged by Pilate (Mark 15: 14-15)
- Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (Mark 15.17-19)
- Jesus is loaded with the cross (Mark 15:20)
- Jesus is helped by the Cyrene to carry the cross (Mark 15.21)
- Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23: 27-28)
- Jesus is crucified (Mark 15,24)
- Jesus promises his kingdom to the good thief (Luke 23: 39-42)
- Jesus on the cross, the mother and the disciple (John 19: 26-27)
- Jesus dies on the cross (Mark 15, 34. 36-37)
- Jesus is deposed in the sepulcher (Mark 15, 46)
This approach was also taken up by successive pontiffs.
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